Obama administration sending military advisers to Ukraine within weeks

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​The United States is reportedly preparing to send a team of military advisers into Ukraine to assist with revamping forces there in the midst of the ongoing crisis between government-loyal troops and an anti-Kiev militia.

On Tuesday this week, the Washington Times reported that a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense confirmed plans to put Pentagon advisers in Ukraine.

“Within the next few weeks, a group of Defense Department representatives who specialize in strategy and policy will head to Kiev to evaluate specific programs that the United States may want to help bolster,” reporter Maggie Ybarra wrote for the Times.

The newspaper says that Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told the Times that the objective of sending DoD advisers overseas is to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through subject-matter expert teams and long-term advisers.”

RT reported previously back in early June that US military advisers were being offered to Kiev “to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions” and to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through training, education and assistance.”

Last month’s announcement came after the White House approved more than $23 million security assistance to Ukraine in a matter of weeks. As the crisis in eastern Ukraine intensifies, however, particularly in the aftermath of last week’s tragic plane crash that cost the lives of nearly 300 civilians, the US is once again reportedly offering assistance, this time by way of providing Pentagon advisers.

“Clearly, we have an interest in what happens in Ukraine and it’s far better to have an idea of where we can maximize any support we are willing to provide,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) told the Times this week.

“It’s important to keep in mind that one of the reasons we’re sending people over there now to help them establish enduring programs is because they don’t have enduring programs,” one defense official told the paper on condition of anonymity. “So two months ago, when they generated their request list, that list wasn’t a result of a well-established defense strategy.”

On Wednesday this week, The Daily Beast went even further by alleging that those earlier requests made by Kiev to the Pentagon were for “sensitive equipment to jam the radars that Russian anti-aircraft systems use to lock their missiles on planes.”

According to Eli Lake at the Beast, a former senior US official said on condition of anonymity that Kiev officials last month specifically “requested the radar jamming and detection equipment necessary to evade and counter the anti-aircraft systems Moscow was providing the country’s separatists.”

Col. Warren, the Pentagon official who confirmed to the Times that DOD advisers were being sent abroad, told the Beast that “The Ukrainian government has requested support, but we’re not going to detail the types of support they have requested.”

Questions over why Malaysian plane flew over Ukrainian warzone

Capture

Capture

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:48

As the world tries to cope with the tragic loss of almost 300 people in the apparent downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, questions have arisen over why the civil aircraft was directed over a war zone.

MH17, carrying passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed on Thursday in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, the scene of intensive battles between Ukrainian troops and local militias defying Kiev’s rule. In the last several days the militias scored a number of successes, including the reported downing of three Ukrainian military aircraft.

Despite the violence on the ground and apparent danger to aircraft, the Malaysian airliner was directed to pass right over the warzone and was apparently shot down by a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile fired by a Buk-type launcher. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, which resulted in the largest loss of life in the Ukrainian armed conflict so far.

“There are still question to answer like why this plane was flying over that area, whether it was on the correct flight path. It was flying over a war zone where missiles have been fired. It’s a war zone, so why was it flying over there?” blogger and writer Neil Clark asked in an interview with RT.

Now airlines and regulators are declaring Ukraine a no-go zone, but before the tragedy the route over Donetsk Region was considered safe for civil aviation despite the violence on the ground. Last week Ukraine closed the airspace in its east to traffic flying at altitudes of 7,900 meters or lower, but MH17 was flying at 10,600 meters.

Militias have been using relatively simple anti-aircraft weapons like shoulder-fired SAMs, which can engage targets up to 3,500 meters high, which apparently was good enough reason for airlines and Ukrainian traffic controllers to allow high-flying planes over the restricted area.

“MAS had used this route for years and it had always been safe. Fifteen out of 16 Asean Pacific airlines and even some airlines from Europe fly that route,” Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said at a media conference on Friday. “There were no last minute instructions to change the flight path to a different route.”

Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by flightaware.comMalaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by flightaware.com

The carriers had good reason to fly over Ukraine, because it’s the shortest route between many European countries and large cities in Southeast Asia. Shorter fly paths means less fuel spent and larger profits from the airlines. Hundreds of flights passed Ukraine daily before the conflict there escalated, and the traffic remained quite intensive before Thursday’s tragedy.

What’s peculiar about MH17 is that the ill-fated flight was different from its usual path over Ukraine. According to data at flightaware.com, a website tracking civil aviation traffic, the flight on Thursday diverted about 200km north from the paths the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 had used in previous days. And it led the plane right over the war-torn Donetsk Region.

So far no official explanation has been given as to the unusual flight path. But a conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the airspace above Crimea may have played a role. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAN), a UN watchdog, considers the airspace over the region part of Ukraine’s national traffic control responsibility. Russia has contested this ever since the former Ukrainian region became part of Russia.

Amid the conflict most carriers avoid flying through Crimean airspace. Malaysian Airlines is no exception, and MH17 flights were usually routed over the Azov Sea northeast of Crimea or over the Black Sea to the south of it. If flying over the Azov Sea was not available for some reason on Thursday, the carrier could have been advised by Ukrainian traffic control to divert the flight further north.

US readies to impose unilateral sanctions on Russia

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Officials in the United States called European Union ambassadors this week for a closed-door meeting in the White House to urge their governments to impose tougher sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine.

If European countries refuse America’s request, however, the Obama administration is reportedly ready to announce so-called sectorial sanctions on its own.

Three unnamed government officials who participated in the meeting confirmed to Bloomberg that the US is ready to act unilaterally as early as this week.

Representatives for European nations are currently in the midst of meetings in Brussels at the EU Summit, and on Wednesday they reportedly plan to announce the imposing of additional sanctions against Russia, according to the Associated Press.

But if “EU officials fail to enact strong sanctions,” the AP reported out of Washington early Wednesday, the US may take its own actions.

At the Brussels meeting, all 28 member-states of the EU must agree on what sanctions will be lobbed against Russia. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the week that that European leaders are expected to end that conference with the announcement of “modest” measures aimed at Russian businesses tied to the current crisis in Ukraine, and early Wednesday a draft document was published by Bloomberg News alleged to contain the EU’s conclusions concerning imminent action against Russia.

The Mistral-class helicopter carrier (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)The Mistral-class helicopter carrier (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)

The French government particularly demands that the latest sanctions target new individuals or entities and do not hit entire sectors of the Russian economy. France has a $1.6 billion military contract with Russia and is supposed to deliver two ‘Mistral’ class helicopter carriers within the next years. Along with France also Italy, Slovakia, Greece and Austria reportedly voiced objections to broader sanctions.

Nevertheless, the EU “condemns the continuation of illegal activities by armed militants in eastern Ukraine,” the draft says, and the 28-nation bloc will “proceed with the expansion of restrictive measures.”

Moscow has been hit with rounds of sanctions already from the international community in response to Russia’s accession of Crimea in March after the majority of the peninsula’s population voted on the referendum to join the Russian Federation. Western countries also accused Putin’s government of providing military and logistic assistance to separatists in Eastern Ukraine — a claim that Russia categorically denies.

Now as the EU prepares to make a formal announcement concerning new sanctions against Russia, the AP’s sources say Washington will respond if necessary with actions of its own.

“Until now, the US has insisted on hitting Russia with penalties in concert with Europe in order to maximize the impact and present a united Western front,” Julie Pace reported for AP on Wednesday.

“The European Union has a far stronger economic relationship with Russia, making the 28-nation bloc’s participation key to ensuring sanctions packages have enough teeth to deter Russia,” Pace added. “But those same economic ties have made Europe fearful that tougher penalties against Russia could boomerang and hurt their own economies. After weeks of inaction, the officials say the US is now prepared to move forward alone if EU officials fail to enact strong sanctions during a meeting Wednesday in Brussels.”

Previously, the US has announced sanctions against dozens of Russian officials and businessmen, as well as multiple banks and energy companies.

Bloomberg News’ sources say that most likely future US sanctions will ban sales of dual-use technologies to targeted Russian entities and bar financial institutions from buying assets of some Russian banks in an attempt to prevent them from getting access to world financial markets. Other measures are also on the table.

Meanwhile, Russia reportedly is preparing a harsh response if such actions are taken by the US or EU member states. On July 8, Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak said, according to Bloomberg, that Russia would prepare “serious countermeasures” if the sectorial sanctions are imposed.

Putin Orders Military On Combat Alert

Putin Orders Military On Combat Alert

Combat drill to involve 5,500 pieces of military equipment

By With assistance from Terry Atlas Jun 21, 2014 10:34 AM CT

Russia put more than 65,000 troops on combat alert and ordered them to take part in a drill a day after Ukraine called a week-long cease-fire to quell violence in the eastern part of the country.

The Russian drill is the biggest since the country annexed the Black Sea Crimean peninsula in March. The U.S. has accused the government in Moscow of aiding the separatists and this week imposed sanctions on people linked to the insurgency.

The dispute is flaring as American and European officials warn that more painful penalties affecting Russia’s access to financial markets, technology and military hardware may come as early as next week if President Vladimir Putin refuses to curb tensions. North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. officials have said this week that Russia was renewing its military buildup near the Ukrainian border.

“The fact remains that Kiev and Moscow are at daggers drawn,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said by e-mail. “Russia’s latest military maneuvers throw the extent of the distrust and suspicion between both sides into sharp relief.”

Russia dismissed Ukraine’s declaration of the cease-fire as an “ultimatum,” spurring officials from the European Union and Germany today to call again on Putin to support the peace plan.

Military Readiness

Putin put troops in Russia’s central military region on full combat alert and ordered them to take part in a test of military readiness that is to last through June 28 and will also involve 5,500 pieces of military equipment, Vladimir Anikin, a spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, said by phone.

In Kiev, the Foreign Ministry denounced Russia’s latest military activity, saying it “does not help to normalize the situation in Ukraine and to implement peaceful initiatives by the Ukrainian authorities,” according to an e-mailed statement.

Russia on the other hand said it was concerned that Ukraine was boosting its military operation, Interfax reported, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

Act ‘Adequately’

While Ukraine seeks a peaceful solution to the conflict, its military is ready to act “adequately” if the cease-fire is violated, President Petro Poroshenko said today in a statement on his website. The peace plan has “powerful support” from European and U.S. leaders, he said.

Ukraine called on all fighters to lay down arms, halting the offensive against rebels from 10 p.m. yesterday until 10 a.m. on June 27, according to the president’s website.

The proposal lacks “the main ingredient — an offer to start negotiations,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Pro-Russian militants expressed skepticism the truce will be implemented.

Militants stirred fighting in at least seven different places overnight, which left nine border troops and one Russian customs official wounded, and an unspecified number of militants killed, Ukrainian authorities said today.

U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday spoke by phone with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, agreeing in separate conversations that the U.S. and European Union would “impose costs” on Russia if it doesn’t work to deescalate the situation, the White House said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Hold Accountable’

The U.S. “will continue to take action to hold accountable those persons engaged in efforts to destabilize Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement. “These individuals have all contributed to attempts to illegally undermine the legitimate government.”

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned seven individuals, including the acting governor of Sevastopol in Crimea and separatist leaders in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Broader measures are being readied against the finance, defense and technology industries, two U.S. officials said.

The U.S. is levying penalties for the first time since April 28, when it sanctioned people and companies linked to Putin’s inner circle. Russia risks further measures when EU leaders meet next week unless it helps end the unrest to support an emerging peace plan, Merkel said yesterday.

Tougher Sanctions

European diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said consensus has emerged within the 28-member group during the last week that tougher sanctions may be warranted when EU leaders meet June 26-27 in Brussels if Putin fails to abide by earlier pledges.

“All parties” will need to “actively promote” the implementation of the peace plan, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at a news conference in Tallinn today. “We in particular call on the Russian Federation to use all its influence to this end and to support this plan publicly and through concrete actions.”

Merkel’s comments reflect an effort by EU powers to gain leverage over Putin by using Poroshenko’s cease-fire as a trigger for expanded sanctions if Putin doesn’t cooperate.

The U.S. and the EU have imposed sanctions on people and companies close to Putin, while threatening the government in Moscow with unspecified economic penalties as pro-Russian separatists clash with Ukrainian forces.

Overnight Fighting

Fighting continued overnight as the cease-fire call came into effect when six Ukrainian border guards and one Russian customs officer were wounded as militants opened fire at the Izvaryne check point, Ukrainian State Border Service said in a statement on its website today. Militants also shot at troop base near Vyselky village in the Donetsk region, stirring fighting and leaving two border troops injured, according to the service.

Road Block

A Ukrainian road block was shot at near Slovyansk this morning, Defense Ministry spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said on his Facebook account.

Poroshenko’s 15-point peace plan includes early parliamentary and local elections, job creation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and freeing all seized buildings and abducted people, according to the statement.

Before the cease-fire can be implemented, Ukraine must reassert control over its border with Russia, across which fighters have crossed, according to Poroshenko.

Russia is increasing security because it’s concerned about the situation on the border, though it’s not building up troop levels, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign-policy aide, said yesterday.

The separatists are willing to consider the plan, according to Andrei Purgin, a deputy premier of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.

“If we see a true cease-fire, we may stop our actions as well,” he said by phone. “But I think there will be no cease-fire. In practice these statements are only political.”

Obama chastises Romney for calling Russia a threat, wanting troops in Iraq

Oh well. No matter. He won anyway.

Remember when Russia was invading the Crimean peninsula, and some of us reminded you that President Obama had chastised Mitt Romney two years ago for calling Russia a strategic adversary to the United States? Well that wasn’t all Obama got smugly loud about in that foreign policy debate. He also took serious exception to the notion that the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq. Here is some of that exchange:

Now there’s now way to prove that, had Romney been elected, he would have taken the necessary steps to prevent the ISIS incursion. But at least we can say from this exchange that Romney had a clear view of the problem, which is more than we can say for Obama. Here is a more complete transcript:

OBAMA: Gov. Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.

But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.

You say that you’re not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. And the — the challenge we have — I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy — but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong. You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite that fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it. You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.

So, what — what we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map. And unfortunately, that’s the kind of opinions that you’ve offered throughout this campaign, and it is not a recipe for American strength, or keeping America safe over the long haul.

SCHIEFFER: I’m going to add a couple of minutes here to give you a chance to respond.

ROMNEY: Well, of course I don’t concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I’ve said. They don’t happen to be accurate. But — but I can say this, that we’re talking about the Middle East and how to help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we’re seeing, and the rising tide of tumult and — and confusion. And — and attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we’re going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East, and take advantage of the opportunity there, and stem the tide of this violence.

But I’ll respond to a couple of things that you mentioned. First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe. Not…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same — in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, he’ll get more backbone. Number two, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed I believe that there should be a status of forces agreement.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Oh you didn’t? You didn’t want a status of…

OBAMA: What I would not have had done was left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. And that certainly would not help us in the Middle East.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry, you actually — there was a — there was an effort on the part of the president to have a status of forces agreement, and I concurred in that, and said that we should have some number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred with…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Governor…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …that your posture. That was my posture as well. You thought it should have been 5,000 troops…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Governor?

ROMNEY: … I thought there should have been more troops, but you know what? The answer was we got…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: … no troops through whatsoever.

OBAMA: This was just a few weeks ago that you indicated that we should still have troops in Iraq.

ROMNEY: No, I…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …I’m sorry that’s a…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: You — you…

ROMNEY: …that’s a — I indicated…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: …major speech.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …I indicated that you failed to put in place a status…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Governor?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …of forces agreement at the end of the conflict that existed.

OBAMA: Governor — here — here’s — here’s one thing…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: …here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander in chief.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Let him answer…

OBAMA: You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. You just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.

Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just meet these challenges militarily. And so what I’ve done throughout my presidency and will continue to do is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.

Number three, we do have to make sure that we’re protecting religious minorities and women because these countries can’t develop unless all the population, not just half of it, is developing.

Number four, we do have to develop their economic — their economic capabilities.

But number five, the other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can’t continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation building here at home. That will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need.

Obama never really explained why keeping forces in Iraq wouldn’t help us in the Middle East. I don’t think he really had a reason in mind. He just figures that if the idea bothers him, it must not be helpful. That’s pretty much the way Obama constructs his entire foreign policy. If something feels like a drag to do, don’t do it, and if all kinds of problems result, they must not be problems worthy of his attention.

The only real question that matters is this: Would ISIS be overrunning Iraq today if Obama had signed a status of forces agreement? Of course not. Iraq is vulnerable today because Obama never wanted Iraq to be his problem, and Obama only pays attention to the things he wants to pay attention to, not the things that global events dictate he has a duty to tend to.

Not only was Obama wrong about Iraq, but he was so arrogant that he took the liberty of condescendingly lecturing Mitt Romney for disagreeing with him. That’s a pattern with Obama, and so far he hasn’t been made to pay a political price for it. It appears, however, that everyone who lives in Iraq may be about to pay a huge price for Obama’s ignorance and arrogance.

Russia now enemy, so we’ll help Ukraine build up military – NATO chief

Russia now enemy, so we’ll help Ukraine build up military - NATO chief

NATO is preparing a package deal to ramp up the Ukrainian military because it ‘must adapt’ to Russia viewing it as an enemy, the outgoing chief of the military bloc said.

The deal would be submitted to foreign ministers of members states later this month, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told El Pais in an interview. He declined to go into detail, but said it provides for defense industry reform and modernization of the Ukrainian military.

The alliance may also facilitate cooperation with Ukraine over military training, although whatever exercises of NATO member troops would be held in Ukraine is up to individual countries, Rasmussen said.

“We must adapt to the fact that Russia now considers us its adversary,” he explained.

NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen (Reuters / Laurent Dubrule)NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen (Reuters / Laurent Dubrule)

The help that NATO plans to give Ukrainian military comes as the said military are used in a bloody crackdown on the defiant eastern provinces, where local militias defend cities from daily artillery shelling and airstrikes.

Kiev regards the militias as Russia-backed terrorists and refuses any kind of negotiation with them. NATO shares the view, accusing Russia of funneling heavy weapons into Ukraine across the border, although so far no solid evidence of such actions was presented.

The alliance itself is experiencing a sort of revival playing the ‘Russian threat’ card to justify the build-up of troops in Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow sees such deployments as provocative and confirming NATO’s aggressive stance towards Russia.

NATO claims that it has been cooperating with Russia in every way until the Ukrainian crisis sparked the cold war hostilities again. It’s not quite true, considering the alliance’s expansion eastwards in Europe and its plans to deploy a system of anti-ballistic missile defense closer to Russian borders. Both have been done against Russia’s objections that such moves compromise Russian national security.

‘No more delays’: Gazprom CEO sets hard deadline for Ukraine gas payment

‘No more delays’: Gazprom CEO sets hard deadline for Ukraine gas payment

Gazprom will not postpone Ukraine’s gas payment deadline set for Monday, CEO Aleksey Miller said. If Kiev fails to pay and therefore causes gas transit problems to Europe, Russia will pump more through the Nord Stream and Yamal-Europe pipelines.

The final deadline has been set for 10 a.m. Moscow time (6 a.m. GMT) on Monday. If the Russian gas giant does not receive US$1.951 billion at that time, it will force Ukraine to pay for its gas supplies in advance, Miller told reporters on Thursday.

“If nothing has been paid, nothing will be supplied,” Miller said.

Ukrainian company Naftogaz is to pay $1.454 billion for gas supplies it received in November and December last year. It must also show progress in paying its April and May debt, Miller continued.

Ukraine’s gas debt currently exceeds $4 billion.

Russia, Ukraine, and the EU have been negotiating Ukraine’s gas price, which Kiev wants to lower to $268.50 per thousand cubic meters.

After Moscow agreed to give Kiev a discount, the price stands at $385 per thousand cubic meters. That is $100 less than the previous price of $485 that Moscow set in accordance with the contract after Naftogaz failed to pay for gas supplies.

Miller added that this price fully corresponds to the one which is included in the IMF’s aid package to Ukraine.

Ukraine has taken a firm stance on lowering the price. According to Miller, Kiev’s “uncompromising position” actually “sabotaged” the trilateral talks on Wednesday.

The Gazprom head also mentioned a statement by Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuk, which he made while the trilateral talks were being held on Wednesday.

In the comment, Yatsenuk said: “There is no basis for reaching the agreement” if Russia does not agree with Ukraine. Miller responded by saying the comment was “absurd, ultimatum-like and unconstructive.”

“At the same time such statements, according to the European Commission, are completely irrelevant. We agree,” said Miller.

If Naftogaz launches legal action against the Russian company in the Stockholm Court of Arbitration, Gazprom will counter-sue Ukraine for its failure to pay its debt and for not taking the required amounts of gas under the “take or pay” contract over the past two years, Miller said. The penalty in accordance with the contract could be around $18 billion.

This week, Ukrainian energy minister Yury Prodan reiterated Kiev’s intentions to file an appeal with the arbitration court in Stockholm. Prodan stressed that taking the case to Stockholm is the only way to settle the matter.

He elaborated that Ukraine is ready to continue the gas talks “while waiting for the decision of the Stockholm Court of Arbitration.”

One-third of Europe’s gas supplies enter the continent via Ukraine from Russian supply lines, thus Europe’s authorities fear that Ukraine’s debt may lead to the country’s failure to fulfill gas transit obligations to southeastern Europe.

Miller said on Thursday that Gazprom is planning to increase the flow of gas via the Nord Stream and Yamal-Europe pipelines to reduce the risk. He added that the company would also pump more gas into underground gas storage facilities in Europe to avoid shortages of fuel for European consumers in the coming period.

Russia will continue construction of the South Stream gas pipeline – another route bypassing Ukraine – in order to transport gas supplies to Europe via the Black Sea and Bulgaria by December 2015, according to the Gazprom CEO.

“Gazprom will take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of gas to European consumers,” Miller said.